Digital Identity Mapping is going to be one of the next big tools in our online skill set and there are a lot of issues and questions involved. As we extend ourselves and our identities onto the the Web, the networks we create and participate in essentially work to define and shape who we are and how we are known and perceived. It’s a much bigger sandbox we play in now and much of the neighborhood is unknown territory to the average user. Algorithms, feedback loops, and filter bubbles immediately come into play as our identity is aggregated and re-aggregated in the simple acts of posting, liking, favoriting, +1’ing, etc. If you aren’t managing your identity it is being managed for you and that is going to have increasingly far reaching consequences for your future success and happiness. Employers now regularly vet an applicant’s social media pages, Google their names, and gather all the online data they can to make a digitally informed decision regarding potential employment. Insurance companies do the same – what does your online behavior say about your lifestyle and categories of risk? And on and on. Marketers have you coming and going; they know your buying behaviors, media tastes, income level… and target you accordingly.
As the identity map above indicates, we are more than the sum of our parts – but what a lot of parts we have to consider when tripping the digital light fantastic! Big issues here – first of all, privacy and control: who owns and manages your identity – you or Facebook, Google+, Twitter and iTunes? Right now they own us and allow us to play in their walled gardens and parks while we are a target for marketers. Privacy settings and control require an almost superhuman effort in order to maintain an image you wish to project rather than the aggregation of behaviors they reinforce in their algorithms. Buy an iPad – you are limited to the iTunes garden; jailbreak it and you go to digital hell. Buy a Kindle Fire – you are limited to the Amazon garden, a big one yes, but still you’re limited where you can play and targeted immediately.
Social capital, reputation, and branding are the next big issues. You are what you post, and you are what your audience likes, favorites, retweets, shares, and +1’s. Your social identity is shaped by the tools used by the site you use. You are limited by that and reinforced by that. It’s a computer program after all, it has its limitations and by its very design defines us and dictates how we can be known; nuance and individuation is not a big ticket item here. These things aggregate and we are merely data points. Fair warning and heads up when playing in these parks.
We have to be our own advocates, manage our own identities, own our own words and take responsibility for our reputations. If we don’t, we are going to become just another brick in the walls of their gardens.
OCCUPY THE WEB!